An increase in the number of children placed into foster care at The Children’s Family Trust helped boost its income from local authorities to £5.8m in the year ended 31 December 2017, from £5.5m in 2016, representing a 5.6% rise.

However, total turnover, which included donations and rents, was £5.8m (2016: £5.8m), while expenditure rose to £5.9m, from £5.7m in 2016. The Trust made a deficit last year of £30,474, after its surplus of £202,975 in 2016.

The independent fostering agency said the economic climate ‘continued to deteriorate’ resulting in the Trust’s income being ‘squeezed’.

‘Local authorities continued to lower their fees,’ its financial report said. ‘New contracts and tenders reflect this downward pressure whilst expectations about what we should deliver have increased. However, we continue to gain entry to additional contracts, which have supported our expansion plans.’

Recruitment of foster carers was challenging for the Trust, but a marketing and media strategy, alongside the upgrade of its website benefited the organisation. This enabled the Trust to recruit what it describes as a ‘very high calibre’ of carer.

‘The number of children we look after remained similar to that of 2016 with some temporary rises in numbers throughout the year,’ the report said. ‘It is noticeable that most of the referrals we receive across the country, are of children with considerable difficulties and who have experienced very traumatic early lives. For this reason alone, the calibre, quality and skills of the foster carer is extremely important.’

Recruitment and retention would be one of the main objectives in 2018, the Trust said, with targeted recruitment in geographical areas. It plans to do this by using its register of interest lists. ‘Current research suggests that a carer base can be increased by up to 60% simply by revisiting this list three years after a person’s initial enquiry,’ the financial statement said.

In terms of retaining staff, the Trust said it would look at how it supervises and appraises it employees. It said: ‘Retention of carers is also vital if we are to continue to grow.

‘More of our carers undertook an NVQ qualification this year. Our planned and paid ‘mentoring’ service is now in place involving experienced carers supporting new carers as well as carers providing ongoing support to other who may be going through a particularly difficult time.’